Yesterday, we received the proposed educational statement for B. It’s good news. B has been given 32.5 hours per week one to one support. That’s support from the moment he steps through the school gates, to the moment he leaves at the end of the day! We are understandably delighted about this.
We are also pretty gobsmacked. Not because he doesn’t need it- I strongly believe he does- but because we were led to expect, at every point of the way, that it would be unlikely for him to get such a level of support (see previous post). We were optimistically expecting 15, maybe 20 hours at a push. Up until the very last time we saw SEYS (Specialist Early Year’s Service) they were telling us that full support is ‘rare’. Those who are informed about this sort of thing have also expressed surprise- the speech and language therapist today said, “wow!” (not very articulate for a language expert!). I emailed the Headteacher of B’s school from September, who happened to be at work, along with B’s class teacher (there’s committment for you). I popped in and, again, they were quite surprised at the level of support being offered. And very pleased.
So I have to ask myself, how did this level of support come to be offered? The obvious answer is because he needed it. My son will not be able to access full time education without 100% individualised support. That’s depressing to think about but is also true. The system, it would appear, has worked for him. I was led to expect that forces out of our control would work against us- namely funding shortages. The second key reason is the strength of the case presented in the evidence gathered. Along with the statement, we received all the evidence collected, including copies of what we wrote (more of which later). It does make for concvincing reading and, I believe, would be hard to argue against.
If I was being really cynical, I might suspect that, by offering full time support in a mainstream school, the local authority is ruling out the need for a specialist or MLD school. These types of school are, I’m told, much more expensive to place a child at. By giving this level of support, they are perhaps saving the cost of more specialised support in a school with more limited placements. Perhaps there is an element of ‘keeping us happy’ by offering such an appealing proposal. But perhaps that’s just me being characteristically sceptical and pessimistic. I have specifically asked Autism Outreach ‘does he belong in mainstream?’ and their answer was a categorical ‘yes’. So perhaps I should stop being a miserable so-and-so and just be pleased for once!
Parent Partnership have suggested an element of caution in accepting the proposed statement. They want to look over it this week in detail and have asked us to do the same. They advised me to make sure that what is being offered is an accurate and comprehensive response to what has been flagged up by the evidence. It needs, they said, to be unambiguous, have clear recommendations and reflect the needs identified. The devil is in the detail, they said. They also implied that we should not be seduced by such a high level of hours, without considering how those proposed hours are used. I really need their help on this. It looks comprehensive enough to me, but I’m no expert. We have fifteen days to go through it all.
There’s lots of information in the proposal, including objectives, recommendations, monitoring arrangements etc, but here is the summary of his needs:
‘Thus, B has special educational needs in the following areas:
a) Reading, writing and spelling.
b) Medical needs.
c) Fine motor skills.
d) Self-help and independence skills.
e) Danger and harm
f) Numeracy skills
g) Expressive and receptive language skills.
h) Social interaction and social communication skills.
i) Attention and concentration skills.
j) Emotional and behavioural responses.
k) Confidence and self-esteem.’
So that’s what the profile of a child who needs 32.5 hours looks like!
One section of the evidence gathered that was particularly gratifying was the Educational Psychologist’s report. This is because it made specific reference to the supporting comments we had submitted as parent’s. It said:
‘…I would draw attention to the detailed description of B provided by his parents. This account complements the information provided by those agencies and professionals working to assess and meet B’s needs and read in conjunction with their reports, provides a comprehensive and accurate portrayal of the ‘whole child’. Rather than repeat or paraphrase, and risk misinterpretation, I would urge that the parents’ submission is read in its entirety. I do, however, feel it relevant to include the following quote:
“When we think about B’s transition from nursery to school we are very concerned about how he will cope. Although we have told B that he will be starting school in September and he is aware of the school, we know that B does not understand what we are saying and has no concept of what school means. Given the support needs that B has we worry that without appropriate 1-2-1 support, and the chance to build a trusting relationship with a learning support assistant B will be a very lost little boy at school.”
It is good to know that our efforts to support our son paid off. Obviously what we wrote is just a part of the process but it does perhaps highlight the benefit and value of the ‘parent voice’ in the statementing process. With this in mind I have decided to add a page to this blog with the full versions of the two sets of supporting comments we submitted as part of this process. Perhaps they will be of use to someone at some stage.
You can find them here.
I’ve said all along that there is nothing to celebrate in the fact that your child needs such help and support and, I guess, has a disadvantage as they start their (school) life. But for once I’d like to celebrate, because he is a big step closer to getting the support he needs. All the effort and anxiety have been worth it. We are delighted for him.